B.J. Hoeptner Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 17, 2011) – The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team will square off against Italy, France and Korea during pool play of the 2012 FIVB World League, which will have a new format for the Olympic year, the FIVB confirmed during its Sports Events Council meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday.
The 23rd edition of the world’s premier annual men’s volleyball event will be held May 18-July 1 with the Final Round set to take place in Sofia, Bulgaria on July 4-8.
For the first time in the tournament’s history, the World League Intercontinental (pool play) Round, still featuring 16 teams across four pools, will be played in four weeks with each country hosting all four teams in their respective pool on one weekend each.
Each pool will play at the same time with the exception of the first weekend, which will take place between May 18 and 27 to fit in with the various continental competitions also taking place at the time. The second weekend will be held June 15-17 ahead of the third on June 22-24 and the fourth on June 29-July 1.
The change in competition format is to accommodate a busy schedule that includes qualification tournaments for the London 2012 Olympic Games and also takes into consideration other sporting events that currently crowd the calendar ahead of the Olympics.
The United States, which is ranked fifth in the world and is the defending Olympic champion, and Italy, an eight-time World League winner, will be the favorites in Pool C as they battle with France and Korea, who both had disappointing campaigns in 2011. All four teams will navigate their campaign with qualification for the London Games, with Italy hosting one of the European Olympic qualification tournaments halfway through the World League.
The U.S. Men had both Italy and France in their pool in 2007, when the U.S. advanced to the Final Round and finished third overall. The U.S. shared a pool with Italy again in 2009 and went 3-1 against the Europeans.
In 2011, the U.S. Men finished second in their pool at World League, advancing to the Final Round where they finished seventh overall.
World League defending champions Russia will take on Japan, Cuba and Serbia in Pool A.
Pool A will begin in Japan before the attention turns to Cuba following a number of World Olympic Qualification Tournaments before the four teams travel to Russia and finally Serbia. While Russia will be preparing for the Olympic Games having already qualified at the 2011 World Cup, Japan, Serbia and Cuba will need to navigate the tournament whilst also taking into consideration their Olympic Games qualification progress at the same time.
Nine-time World League champion Brazil, the silver medalist last year, will have to battle last year’s bronze medalist Poland as well as Finland and Canada, with the latter returning to the tournament for the first time since 2007 having beaten Slovakia and Puerto Rico during the qualification rounds.
With both Poland and Brazil already qualified for the Olympic Games, it will be Canada and Finland who will need to stretch their resources across London qualification and the World League. The Canadians will host the opening weekend before the teams travel south to Brazil and then across to Europe for weekends in Poland and then Finland.
Pool D features Germany, Argentina, Portugal and Final Round host Bulgaria in what is expected to be a tight battle. With Argentina featuring in last year’s Finals in Gdansk and Germany narrowly missing out, both will fancy their chances for a ticket to Sofia. There is history between Argentina and Portugal also, with the two teams clashing last year, the South Americans coming out on top.
The Finals will feature six teams, with the four pool winners and best runner-up joining Bulgaria.
FIVB Volleyball World League 2012 Intercontinental Round Pools
Pool A – Russia, Serbia, Japan, Cuba
Pool B – Brazil, Poland, Canada, Finland
Pool C – Italy, USA, France, Korea
Pool D – Germany, Argentina, Portugal, Finland